#971: The End of Bubbly Creek

August 24th, 2018

At the end of Bubbly Creek, the southern fork of the Chicago River’s southern branch, where the meatpackers once dumped blood, guts and industry, where the bubbles of carbonic gas once burst in “rings two or three feet wide,” to quote the muckraker Upton, where men gathered filth for lard, skimming in scows the fat of the water, a tattooed bartender checks her phone waiting for the craft brewpub to open.

She taps her foot as she sits in the one barstool not sitting bottom up on a table. It’s morning yet, and the floors are still clean. The stools are still stacked. The drinking day hasn’t begun, so the young woman has a moment to tap her foot and check up on the world.

She is young and lovely, sharp and fashionable. The bartender has become a storied figure, a stock character of wisdom and patience for no real reason other than that writers used to like to romanticize booze, and they liked the guy who handed them each glass. But the rest of the service industry gets short shrift, although they’re just as savvy, wise and sharp.

Waiters are a stock character of bad romantic comedy, the slightly effete man working on an acting career when not plenishing water, apps or checks. Waitresses are sexual in these films, the object for the bad boyfriend to ogle and smack the ass of. But through some ’40s notion that Hemingway had any idea what the hell he was talking about, a bartender is seen as wise.

She taps her foot and checks her phone.

The brewpub is a Marz venture, one of the Bridgeport-area gambits of the Marszewski boys, locals who manage to pull off that rare trick of creating things both beautiful and soulful, both authentic and new. Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar is theirs. So is Kimski, the Polish-Korean fusion joint from the Polish-Korean fusion¬†Marszewskis. They also do the Co-Prosperity Sphere, Lumpen Magazine and Lumpen’s accompanying 105.5 on the radio.

The taproom sits at the end of Bubbly Creek.

At the end of Bubbly Creek, on a street called Iron in a town that no longer makes steel, the wet muck that slaughterhouses spewed and Upton Sinclair raked has been replaced with dryness. Gravel lots for city vehicles, trucks from a smatter of warehouses grinding white grit as they pile down the roads. There are fewer vehicles now, I guess. Fewer jobs, fewer ways to pay for kids by lifting and hauling and slicing pigs’ throats.

That’s what I’m told, at least.

The end of Bubbly Creek offers no access without trespassing into one of these places. I move north along dry gravel, seeking some place I can see water.

Standing on the bridge that crosses the creek, McKinley Park to the west and Bridgeport to the east, I stare south from 35th at these defining waters. This once-bubbling water of blood and grit meant Chicago, for all the horror and abuse and wealth and security it created. We took on the filth to provide the nation its breakfast meat. We got the fat-slick water, they got the sausage.

Now our south river’s south jut has no more idea what to do than we do. Are we robust or cosmopolitan? Are we the engine of industry or the height of fashion? Do we make the sausage or brunch upon it?

I don’t know, and Bubbly Creek isn’t saying. The once-roiling waters of filth and jobs are quiet, and still.

Tales of Bridgeport

Tales of McKinley Park

Old Joe of Canaryville

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You are currently reading #971: The End of Bubbly Creek by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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